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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What does CSIS do?
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) investigates threats which may, on reasonable grounds, be suspected of posing a threat to the security of Canada. CSIS also has the authority to take measures to reduce these threats if there are reasonable grounds to believe that they pose a threat to national security.
In order to fulfill its mandate, CSIS collects and analyzes threat-related information to produce a variety of reports. These reports can include: intelligence reports, threat assessments, and security assessments, among others, and are used to advise the Government of Canada about activities that may pose a threat to the security of Canada.
What constitutes a threat to the security of Canada?
The activities that constitute a threat to the security of Canada include:
- terrorism: serious violence for the purpose of achieving a political, religious or ideological objective;
- espionage; and,
- foreign-influenced activity.
How does CSIS differ from the RCMP?
While CSIS is strictly concerned with collecting information and security intelligence for the purpose of advising the government, the role of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), and other law enforcement agencies, is to investigate criminal activity and collect evidence that can be used in criminal prosecutions.
Is CSIS allowed to investigate protest groups?
CSIS respects the Canadian right to peaceful and lawful protest. CSIS is mandated to investigate activities that may pose a threat to the security of Canada. As defined in section 2 of the CSIS Act, threats include espionage or sabotage, foreign-influenced activities, activities in support of terrorism, or subversion. Section 2 specifically bars CSIS from investigating “lawful advocacy, protest or dissent,” unless it is carried out in conjunction with one of the threat-related activities defined in the Act.
How does CSIS protect Canadians against cyber-attacks?
Cyber-attacks have become a tool of choice for a range of hostile actors, including both state and non-state actors, because they are efficient, cost effective and, deniable. As digital technology continues to evolve, so too will the range and scale of cyber threats to Canada, Canadians, and Canadian interests. CSIS investigates and assesses national security cyber threats and provides advice to Government partners. CSIS is a key contributor to Canada’s Cyber Security Strategy.
What is “security intelligence”?
Security intelligence is the product resulting from the collection, collation, evaluation and analysis of information regarding security threats. It provides government decision-makers with insight into activities and trends at national and international levels that can have an impact on the security of Canada. This insight allows decision-makers to develop suitable policy in anticipation of possible threats. Regardless of its source, security intelligence provides value in that it supplements information that is already available from other government departments or the media. Intelligence conveys the story behind the story.
What is “foreign intelligence”? And, when is it collected?
Foreign intelligence is information about the capabilities, intentions or activities of foreign states. CSIS can collect foreign intelligence under the authority of section 16 of the CSIS Act but only within Canada and with the approval of the Minister of Public Safety, based upon a written request by either the Minister of Foreign Affairs or the Minister of Defence. The Service does not collect foreign intelligence outside Canada.
When abroad, CSIS collects security intelligence – that is, intelligence about threats to the national security of Canada.
Can CSIS investigative techniques be arbitrarily deployed?
No. All intrusive methods of investigation used by CSIS are subject to several levels of approval before they are deployed and Ministerial Direction provides important guiding principles. The most intrusive methods, such as electronic surveillance, and covert searches, require a warrant issued by a judge of the Federal Court of Canada. The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) closely reviews CSIS operations to ensure they are lawful and comply with the Service’s policies and procedures.
What does CSIS do with collected intelligence?
CSIS reports to and advises the Government of Canada on threats to the security of Canada. CSIS intelligence is shared with other Canadian government departments and agencies, including Global Affairs Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Department of National Defence, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. CSIS also shares intelligence with foreign agencies with whom we have a Ministerially approved arrangement.
What is CSIS doing to stop domestic radicalization?
The radicalization of Canadians toward violent extremism continues to be an important concern to CSIS and its domestic partners. Radicalization is the process whereby individuals abandon otherwise moderate, mainstream beliefs and at some stage adopt extremist political or religious ideologies. Radicalized individuals may advocate violent extremism and/or mobilize to become engaged in violent extremism. Activities can include attack planning against Canadian targets, sending money or resources to support violent extremist groups abroad, and influencing others to adopt radical ideologies. These individuals may also attempt to travel abroad for terrorist training or to engage in fighting. If they become seasoned fighters with experience in conducting terrorist attacks or assist in the radicalization of others, such individuals can pose a serious threat to the national security of Canada.
CSIS works closely with its Government of Canada partners in addressing domestic radicalization within the parameters of our mandate. For example, in response to the terrorist attacks of October 2014, CSIS undertook a project to identify patterns in an extremist’s path toward engaging in or supporting violence, including traveling for extremist purposes, plotting violent activity or facilitating these activities. Understood together, these indicators can provide investigators with insight into potential threat-related activity. This analysis complements previous CSIS work on radicalization, and helps shed light on the current terrorist threat in Canada and how it manifests itself.
Does CSIS have a foreign presence?
CSIS has many cooperative relationships with foreign agencies that are approved by both our Minister and the local jurisdiction in question. Such cooperation can also include the Service engaging in joint operations in the interest of mutual security. All of CSIS’ investigative activities, whether in Canada or abroad, are undertaken in accordance with the CSIS Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Ministerial Direction.
What is CSIS’ role abroad?
CSIS benefits from cooperation with its more than 290 formal partners worldwide. This well-established network of relationships offers CSIS the opportunity to have officers stationed abroad whose primary function is to collect intelligence on national security threats and liaise with foreign partners. Through these relationships, CSIS is able to investigate threats to the security of Canada and can gain greater understanding of the scope and nature of threats.
Is Canada a target for espionage by foreign states?
CSIS continues to investigate and advise the government on the espionage threat to the security of Canada. An increasingly complex geopolitical landscape has fostered evolving regional and transnational relationships resulting in a number of threats to Canadian economic and strategic interests. Canada remains a target for traditional espionage activities, many of which continue to focus on government proprietary and classified information, as well as advanced technologies in specific Canadian sectors. As a result, a number of foreign states continue to gather political, economic, and military information in Canada through clandestine means in order to advance their own economic and strategic interests. These activities may come at the expense of Canada’s national interests and a diminished competitive global advantage.
What is security screening?
Security screening is a process by which the name of a security-clearance applicant is verified against CSIS databases to determine whether the applicant is mentioned in relation to threat-related activities. Depending on the level or category of security clearance required, security screening can also involve interviewing the applicant's friends, neighbours and employers, consulting with local police, and possibly interviewing the applicant.
What is the purpose of security screening?
The purpose of security screening is to prevent anyone of security concern from gaining access to sensitive government assets, locations or information, and to prevent non-Canadians who pose security concerns or risks from entering Canada or receiving permanent residence in the country.
Who must undergo the security screening process?
Federal Public Service employees, members of the Armed Forces and persons under contract to a government department who, in the performance of their duties, have access to classified government assets or information, as well as people who work at sensitive sites such as airports, the Parliamentary Precinct and nuclear power stations, are all required to hold a security clearance and, therefore, must undergo the security screening process. Non-Canadians who apply for permanent residency or refugee status must also undergo security screening. Security assessments fall into the following program categories: Government Screening, Sensitive Sites Screening, Foreign Screening, Immigration and Citizenship Screening, and Refugee Claimant Screening.
How can I obtain a security clearance?
CSIS provides assessments of individuals to all federal government departments and agencies (except the RCMP). It does not, however, assist members of the general public with obtaining security clearances. To obtain a security clearance, you may contact the following authorities:
- If you are a member of the general public and a condition of employment requires a government security clearance, contact the human resources division of the hiring government department.
- If you are a general contractor and require a security clearance, call Public Services and Procurement Canada at (613) 948-4176 or call toll-free at 1 (866) 368-4646 (weekdays, from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.).
- For all immigration/refugee/visa-related issues, contact Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada at 1 (888) 242-2100.
What can I do in case of denial or revocation?
While CSIS provides security assessments to its client departments on potential threats to national security, the responsibility for granting or denying a security clearance belongs to the client department.
If you wish to file a complaint concerning the denial or revocation of a security clearance necessary to obtain or keep federal government employment or contracts, or necessary to obtain status in and/or access to Canada, you can contact the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) and follow the prescribed complaint process.
What is the Security Intelligence Review Committee and what do they do?
SIRC is an independent, external review body which was created in 1984 through the same enabling legislation as CSIS – the CSIS Act. SIRC’s mandate is to provide assurance to Parliament, and by extension to all Canadians, that all security intelligence activities are conducted lawfully, appropriately and effectively. To do this, SIRC examines activities and operations of CSIS and investigates complaints filed with SIRC under sections 41 and 42 of the CSIS Act.
From the outset SIRC has always had access to all information held by the Service, with the exception of Cabinet confidences. In addition, SIRC meets with and interviews CSIS staff regularly, and formally questions CSIS witnesses in a quasi-judicial complaints process.
The SIRC Annual Report, tabled in Parliament by the Minister, provides an unclassified overview of its various reviews of CSIS activities that were conducted during the fiscal year, and of the results of its complaints investigations.
Who can apply to CSIS?
The following requirements are necessary when applying to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service:
- Be a Canadian citizen
- Be eligible to receive Top Secret security clearance
- Have 10 years of verifiable information
- Have a valid permanent Canadian driver’s license (certain positions)
- Agree to relocate anywhere in Canada and/or abroad, depending on the requirements of the Service, throughout your career (Intelligence Officer positions)
For more information please visit csiscareers.ca.
What types of careers are available at CSIS?
CSIS offers more than a job; it provides an environment where you can build a meaningful and rewarding career. Career fields include:
- Health and Psychology
- Human Resources
- Information Collection/Analysis
- Law and Security
- Science and Technology
For more information please visit csiscareers.ca.
I have important information that might be of interest to CSIS. Who do I contact?
See the list of addresses and telephone numbers for headquarters and regional offices.
Who do I contact to file a complaint about CSIS?
The Director of CSIS and SIRC are responsible for responding to complaints concerning an activity conducted by CSIS, or the denial or revocation of a security clearance.
To file a complaint, follow the process for filing a complaint.
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